The Bahrain International Circuit has been on the Formula 1 calendar since 2004 and has become a well-known track to seasoned F1 fans. The power-hungry straights and tight in-field section create quite a challenge for drivers, and since it was moved to a night race they have to deal with all the difficulties of moving your body clock too. Fortunately, on F1 2018 you don’t have to worry too much about that. Instead you just have to attack the ribbon of tarmac.
As the second race on the calendar you don’t have to worry about worn down engine components like you would have to later in the year. It’s a chance to test your nerve on the brakes and takes a fine balance of straight line speed and downforce to set a really good time.
Come race day though, Bahrain presents a challenge when it comes to overtakes and protecting tyres. There is plenty of run off should things go a little wrong, but the barriers aren’t so far away that you can spin out and survive.
Let’s start our tour by looking at the best overtaking places around the circuit. Spoiler, there aren’t many.
The pit straight is the longest of four around the lap and is home to a DRS zone. If you are in one of the top 3 cars and deploy your ERS effectively you can get beyond most cars before you even reach the braking zone, but if not then there are plenty of lines you can take through this hairpin to get a move done. The inside line is always preferable, as it will allow you to squeeze your opponent on exit, however with the switchback for turn 2 coming very quickly you can go around the outside and cut underneath a defensive inside line.
If you can’t quite get by at turn 1 due to a good defensive line then don’t fret. It will likely compromise them in the run down to turn 4 where you can then dive past.
This tight right-hand hairpin is the last place you can really time a dive on the inside. If you get out of turn 7 well you can hold it on the inside and make a lunge. It will compromise you a bit on the run up to turn 9 & 10, but there is absolutely no way past there and it isn’t a long run up the hill to it either.
This move is riskier on a player than it is the AI, who will back off and concede the corner to you rather than turn in and claim a piece of your front wing, so judge your opponent well before you decide that this is the place to make your move.
It is possible to make a move into turn 11 and turn 14, but both can cost you a lot of time and really hurt you into the next corner. Especially trying to dive into turn 14 which exits out onto the pit straight.
There are several tricky corners around Bahrain too. The heavy braking and long straights can lull you to sleep somewhat and if you aren’t careful they will catch you out.
This is the corner most likely to cause a lock up in the entire game. It follows immediately from the gentle left of turn 9, but is so tight that it forces the braking zone into turn 9. Rule 1 of F1 is do all your braking in a straight line, but this corner does not allow you to do so, leaving you at the mercy of your tyres and requiring a deft touch on the brake pedal that is hard to get right on a pad. Even if you avoid a lockup it is very easy to push the car wide in this corner, compromising you all the way through the DRS zone to turn 11.
This is one of those corners that was easy in previous F1 games, but that F1 2018 has turned into a nightmare. Instinct is to turn in early and hug the inside, and while that isn’t optimal it was viable in games. Not now. The inside kerb has become as slippery as a Mario Kart banana skin and has to be avoided at all costs.
To get this one right you should turn in late and keep to the middle of the track. This sets you up better for turn 13 and keeps the car nice and smooth. This corner can also be punishing on the tyres so try not to push the car through too much.
Bahrain requires a setup that favours straight line speed over responsiveness and cornering, however this isn’t Monza, you can’t just fully ignore the handling thanks to the infield section of the lap. You have to keep a reasonable amount of rear downforce to keep the car planted through turn 11, 12, & 13, and you can’t trim all of the front wing or you’ll never get the car turned in to turn 4 or 10. You can see our Bahrain setup here, but remember that your own individual driving style and any level of assists may well require tweaks.